Detail of Sir Götz's tomb, Schöntal Monastery

A life of combatGötz von Berlichingen

Sir Götz von Berlichingen (circa 1480–1562) played an important role in the Peasants' War of southern Germany. His tomb is located in the Schöntal cloister. Poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe memorialized the knight in his literature and conceived the famous Götz quote.

Exterior of Götzenburg Castle in Jagsthausen

One of his residences: Jagsthausen Castle.

Where did Götz spend his childhood and youth?

Sir Götz was part of the Berlichingen family and was born around 1480, the tenth child of Kilian von Berlichingen and Margaretha von Thüngen. He spent his childhood at Jagsthausen Castle, at the monastery school in Niedernhall, and with his uncle, Konrad von Berlichingen. His subsequent court service for the Margrave of Ansbach was a poor fit in the long run for the young and headstrong Götz.

Götz von Berlichingen, lithograph

The knight of the iron hand.

How did the knight come by his iron hand?

Götz was soon much more interested in warcraft than the courtly proceedings. The margrave, therefore, sent him to Sir Veit von Lentersheim to be trained. Götz's life was henceforth ruled by military service and battle. In the 1504 war between the Rhenish Palatinate and Bavaria, he lost his right hand to a cannon ball during the occupation of Landshut. It was replaced by an ornate prosthesis and after that he was known as “the knight of the iron hand.”

Sir Götz von Berlichingen's tomb, Schöntal Monastery

Götz was a feared knight.

For whom did the knight fight?

As a free knight, Götz von Berlichingen fought on various sides. During the Peasants' War, he fought on the side of the peasants from the Neckar valley and Odenwald forest. Around 1540, he accompanied the emperor into battle against the Turks, and somewhat later against the French. The once feared knight spent his final years at Hornberg Castle. His tomb is located in the Schöntal cloister. On it, Götz is depicted with two healthy hands.

What inspired the famous Götz quote?

Johann Wolfgang on Goethe memorialized the famous knight in literature when he wrote his 1773 drama “Götz von Berlichingen of the Iron Hand.” The protagonist in this piece is a hero who fights unfailingly for the poor and disenfranchised—although this does not reflect historical fact. The line that Götz shouts at the leader of the superior imperial troops is famous: “That for the emperor I entertain, as I have ever done, all due respect; but as for him, he may kiss my ass.

Götz von Berlichingen didn’t just leave his mark in Schöntal. Götzenburg Castle still stands in the neighboring Jagsthausen and Götz's former school is located in Niedernhall on the Kocher river. The Berlichingen ancestral castle is also nearby.

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